Covid hair dye reaction: does hair dye cause allergic reaction after Covid - what if you’ve had the vaccine?

Researchers at Imperial College London are currently looking into how Covid-19 can ‘reprogramme different parts of the immune response’

A number of salons and clients have reported new allergic reactions to hair dye, which appears to affect those with past Covid-19 infections.

This is what you need to know.

What’s happened?

Speaking to the BBC, Gemma said that she suffered from burns after using a patch test for a dye that she had previously been using for 10 years without issue.

She said: “I thought: “Oh it’s a little bit of an extra faff having to come into the salon, wait 48 hours” when all I wanted to do was get my hair coloured.

“However, thank goodness that [the hairdresser] put that [mandatory patch test] policy in place. I came along, had the patch test, and the following day I felt a really hot burning sensation behind my ear, which progressively got worse, to the point where it had taken layers of skin from behind my ear.”

Gemma’s hairdresser, Stacey, began doing compulsory allergy tests as an extra safety precaution in addition to the hair dye manufacturer’s guidelines.

She said: “I was picking up and seeing a lot of reports from stylists and salon owners saying that people were having these new reactions that weren’t having them before, so it really alerted me to something is going on here.

“Knowing Gemma personally, I know that she did have Covid back in January, so my first impression was that: “Was there a link there?”.

“We’d also had a few other clientele coming back with the same issue, so it wasn’t just an isolated incident.”

According to the one salon, four more clients also suffered from the same issue.

Does Covid-19 cause a reaction to hair dye?

Scientists at Imperial College London are currently investigating how the Covid-19 virus could be impacting our immune system.

Professor Danny Altmann, Professor of Immunology Imperial College London, said: “Amongst the many bizarre and horrible things that the virus does, one of the things it seems to be able to do is to just reprogramme and tune up and tune down different parts of the immune response.”

In terms of the effects a virus can have on the human body, and allergies, an article published on the National Library of Medicine site, titled “Airway allergy and viral infection”, states that available evidence “suggests that viral respiratory infection can initiate, maintain and activate exacerbation of allergic conditions in the respiratory tract”.

A spokesperson for the National Hair & Beauty Federation also said that there can be a “heightened reaction” after a bout of serious illness.

They said: “While millions of people have their hair coloured every year without any problems, a small number of people can have a severe allergic reaction to some of the ingredients in hair colour in the same way that some people are allergic to certain foods.

“On occasion there can be a heightened reaction after any serious illness.

“Salon owners will need to be extra vigilant when clients request hair colour services. It is important to carry out a post-lockdown consultation with your client.”

What are allergic reactions?

The NHS explains “an allergy is a reaction the body has to a particular food or substance”.

Allergies are particularly common in children - some allergies will go away as a child gets older, and some will be a lifelong condition.

Adults can also develop allergies to things that they previously did not have an issue with.

Some of the most common allergens include grass and tree pollen, best known as hay fever, food, especially nuts, fruit and shellfish and some medicines, like ibuprofen and certain antibiotics.

An allergic reaction can cause symptoms like:

  • Sneezing
  • A runny or blocked nose
  • Red, itchy or watery eyes
  • Wheezing and coughing
  • A red, itchy rash
  • Worsening of asthma or eczema symptoms 

While most allergic reactions are mild, severe reactions can occur called anaphylaxis, or anaphylactic shock. This is considered a medical emergency and needs urgent treatment.

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